A growing number of senior living developers and operators are creating multiple brands. One significant upside of this strategy is the ability to gain greater share of a market, across different price points.
Pathway to Living has found success venturing into high-end senior living with its Aspired Living brand, as well as the middle market assisted living with its Azpira Place brand, Director of Real Estate Development Matthew Krummick said during a panel discussion at Senior Housing News’ BUILD event in Chicago on May 8.
Pathway already had a recognizable sub-brand in its Victory Center line of affordable supportive living and senior apartments, but wanted to further branch out, and has rolled out three Aspired Living and two Azpira Place communities since forming the brands in 2015.
“First and foremost, our brand is Pathway; it’s what we lead into a market with,” Krummick said. “When we look at growth and the markets we want to enter, we look at different strata within that market.”
Solera Senior Living has both its core Solera brand — which is high-end, private-pay — and the even more luxurious Solera Reserve, CEO and founder Adam Kaplan said.
The company does this for two reasons. First, it allows Solera to cast a wider net where it is not located exclusively in high barrier to entry markets, thereby showing its development and capital partners that it has the flexibility to absorb a more diverse program.
Second, it allows Solera to view the two brands separately, internally.
“Each has certain standards, which allows our operational and corporate support teams — when building, designing and programming these projects — to tailor those efforts and really meet the needs of what people are looking for in a market, and get a solid return on the capital,” Kaplan said.
This conversation has been edited for clarity.
What are the staffing challenges inherent to running multiple brands and making each feel different from the other?
Kaplan: It could be something like having a detailed culinary program. [Solera Reserve] will have multiple dining options, executive chefs, pastry chefs, front of house management, which can result in a difference in raw food and staffing costs.
By creating the brands, we can better define them and ensure they are meeting the standards [of care and support]. In the senior housing of old, there were companies growing opportunistically. The problem is that those companies diluted themselves and wound up not being great at anything.
They were average. We don’t want to be average. We want to be the best at what we do, and so we are intentional as to what we are as a brand and then we execute on that.
How do you prevent becoming diluted, especially when running multiple brands in the same market? How does the customer differentiate between the brands?
Krummick: Unlike Adam, we do not take an operational differentiation. The difference in our brands is mainly facility-driven. The operational brand, Pathway, is consistent throughout our communities.
Look at the hospitality market. So many brands were brought up simply to increase franchise sales. In order to sell more market share, they needed to introduce more brands. Now, there are brands out there with a lack of relevance.
We’re trying to keep our relevance in pieces. Our customers know Aspire Living is the high end, and Azpira Place is more affordable.
What is the sweet spot for senior living brands? What would you consider too diverse?
Krummick: If you look at the levels of care on the market — active adult, independent living, assisted living, memory care and CCRC — that’s the range of where you want to go. You’ve got to have scale for those brands to be relevant in the marketplace, particularly if you’re a national developer.
The relevancy of those brands may not be as recognizable in D.C. as they are in Chicago, which is why we’re sticking to our three brands. But we can put our energy into them and not be diluted.
Kaplan: We have no aspirations to grow to 100 buildings; we want to look for smart growth. That might mean at some point we may have a strategy where we focus on university [partnerships] or align with a health care system. We’re in advanced discussions with a retail partner to build a mixed-use development with an entertainment venue.
We’re less about scaling up our core product than we are looking for ways to build something unique and win in the market. We can look at markets with supply, come up with ways to standout, and be successful.
Do you view multibranding as a way to address penetration?
Krummick: We launched the Azpira Place brand in hopes of driving more consumers to our communities. We found that the middle market is a challenge. Azpira Place is a value leader in an upper market area. Instead of hitting the top 3%, maybe we’re hitting the top quartile.
There will be incremental changes to the strategy that will bring that down to the middle market. But that’s a few years away.
What are the top three obstacles for operators and developers entering a multibrand strategy?
Kaplan: You have to ask yourself if this can be a core competency. Can we win with this strategy? Are you just looking at this because it’s tough to find deals in this market or looking to scale?
We want to be focused on [markets] where they are hiring, where people will pay a premium price for premium product. We are a hospitality company that serves seniors, not a senior living company that differentiates through hospitality. We pass on deals that would be great on paper, but don’t fit our core competencies.
Krummick: You need to be purposeful in what you’re doing. For years, we saw rogue developers enter the market thinking they can [succeed]. A lot of those folks have flushed out. Is the next wave going to be, “you need a million different brands?”
If you aren’t purposeful, you won’t succeed.